I’ve read a LOT of Doctorow in 2023—including Walkaway twice, Red Team Blues twice, and relistening to Little Brother—so I can’t help but place this hopeful solarpunk novel in the context of these others.
Even though The Lost Cause touches on some of the same themes as Walkaway, I like the latter book a lot better, though perhaps because it feels less “real” than a book about paramilitary Maga Clubs and impending climate catastrophe. Yet Red Team Blues is also more grounded than Walkaway, but I enjoyed it more than The Lost Cause, so it’s hard to say why this book didn’t click with me as some of Doctorow’s other writing.
Part of it may be that I read it pretty quickly and was having a crappy week, so I owe it a more careful read in the future. Part of it may be that I hated the idiot ball that the main character carried through most of the book about some unlicensed guns he found in his grandfather’s house. I’ll admit that I like the way Doctorow resolved the subplot, but it screamed “character makes bad decision to create drama later in book” from the beginning and made me anxious rather than engaged.
It’s still a good book, though, and it has everything I like about Doctorow’s fiction: it’s opinionated, it has subtle but cool worldbuilding (I loved the recurring references to the “googles” and “twitters” that emerged in response to an in-universe Big Tech breakup that really never gets talked about—but doesn’t need to be), and the characters really care about food. I will come back to this (or listen to the audiobook later) and probably enjoy it even more than I did this time.
As a final comment, I did appreciate the passing reference to “White Horse Prophecy Doomsdayers” in the book. I know that one of the upcoming Martin Hench prequels involves a Mormon bishop, and as much as I love Doctorow, there are a lot of talented writers who can’t write Mormons convincingly (heck, one of my favorite scholarly books on Mormonism makes some embarrassing factual errors), and I’ve been wondering how that’s going to turn out. Being able to casually drop a reference to the White Horse Prophecy into this book gives me some hope, though. 🤞🏼
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